The Republicans’ ‘Pledge to America’

A preview of the Republican’s new Pledge to America has been released to news organizations today and will reportedly be launched formally tomorrow. I’ve taken a fairly quick look through it, mostly the parts that relate to the economy, and have a few initial observations. The document has seven sections (not numbered in the document itself) –

  1. A Plan to Create Jobs, End Economic Uncertainty, and Make America More Competitive.
  2. A Plan to Stop Out-of-Control Spending and Reduce the Size of Government
  3. A Plan to Repeal and Replace the Government Takeover of Health Care
  4. A Plan to Reform Congress and Restore Trust
  5. A Plan to Keep Our Nation Secure at Home & Abroad
  6. Checks and Balances
  7. Call to Action

My initial reactions –

  • Under a heading “Our Plan to Put Government on a Path to a Balanced Budget”, they talk about a number of measures that may be worthwhile. However my impression (and I need to do more research on this) is that the largest challenge to a balanced budget is actually entitlement spending. Yet on this subject, their final bullet point reads – “We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations” (emphasis added). There doesn’t appear to be any commitment to the kind of reforms that Paul Ryan has proposed.
  • There is no commitment to eliminating earmarks (as noted by CNN), even though under the heading “Checks and Balances” they say they “will fight to ensure transparency and accountability in Congress and throughout government.”
  • Despite claiming to want to “make America more competitive”, there is no commitment to eliminating trade barriers that limit the need for American producers to compete internationally. There is a pie chart showing the number of Federal assistance programs for each Government department, but they make no explicit commitments to reductions in any particular area and give no indication of how much reductions here might amount to.
  • There is no commitment to thorough-going tax reform.
  • There is no indication of an interest in any kind of banking or monetary reform.

Hopefully the media will shine some light on some of these issues once the plan is formally launched tomorrow (yeah right). So far I see more reasons to be cynical than excited.

[Update: in an earlier version of this post I also questioned some numbers in the Pledge document related to debt. However my numbers were based on ‘debt held by the public’ and excluded ‘intra-governmental debt’ like obligations to the Social Security Trust Fund. If you include both forms of debt (and I think it is reasonable to do so) the Pledge is correct in stating that the total is about $13 trillion and is on target to reach 100% of GDP within a couple of years. Here‘s the Treasury’s current data and here‘s a good Wikipedia article that discusses the issue in some detail.]

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